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IFC Food Loss Tool – FAQ 

1. What is the purpose of the IFC’s Food Loss tool? 

The purpose of the IFC’s Food Loss tool is to enable users to quickly and easily estimate the GHG emissions associated with projects that help reducing food losses at either the production, transportation, storage, processing, retail, or landfill stages of the value chain.  

2. What inputs do I need to provide? 

At a minimum, data must be provided on Region of the world, Country, Commodity, and Production Type (animal proteins only), weight of the Commodity, and the food loss rate after the project. A range of optional inputs can be provided to increase the accuracy of the estimate calculated by the tool. 

3. How are food losses and greenhouse gas emissions calculated where I cannot provide site-specific data? 

The tool uses a database of food loss rates and greenhouse gas emission factors to establish a baseline when the user cannot provide site-specific data. For more information on what inputs are mandatory and how default data is used by the tool, please see the guidance and the methodology documents. 

4. Can I analyse a commodity or country that is not included in the list? 

The tool includes 50 commodities and 117 countries, totalling up to 5,850 unique combinations of commodity/country. At this moment only this specific list of combinations can be analysed, although additional commodities and countries may be added in future versions of the tool. For more information on what data is included in the database, please see the methodology document. 

5. I am only interested in some specific value chain stages, how can I set-up the tool to only focus on those? 

Yes, each value chain stage can be activated or deactivated using the checkbox in section 2 of the tool. 

6. What does CO2e mean? 

Carbon dioxide equivalent (or CO2e) is a metric measure used to compare emissions from various greenhouse gases on the basis of their global-warming potential (GWP). It indicates the number of metric tons of CO2 emissions that would have the same global warming potential as one metric ton of another greenhouse gas. All greenhouse gases included in the tool are measured in terms of CO2e. 

7. I have a Life-cycle Assessment for my specific commodity, how can I use it in the tool? 

The tool is designed to utilise optional LCA inputs for commodities. Any manual input for greenhouse gas emissions will supersede the tool’s default data.  

8. How should I measure and report food losses? 

Food losses should be measured and reported in accordance with the methodology provided by FAO (SDG 12.3.1: Global Food Loss Index).

9. How do I measure the quantity of nitrogen applied to synthetic fertilizers? 

Nitrogen data can be reported in terms of nitrogen rate per hectare and/or the corresponding crop yield. The data should only account for synthetic fertiliser, therefore not including manure or other organic fertilisers. For example, if 100kg of synthetic fertiliser is applied with a NPK composition of 25:20:10, the input would be 25kg of nitrogen. 

10. How are avoided losses calculated? 

Avoided losses are calculated by taking the amount of losses that would have been generated to produce the amount of clean product (i.e., net of food losses) achieved after an improvement and subtracting the actual amount of losses observed after the improvement. For example, if an improvement in the supply chain decreases losses from 10% to 5% and results in 100 tonnes of clean product, avoided losses are calculated based on the amount of losses that would have been created to reach 100 tonnes of clean product with a 10% food loss rate. 

11. Why transport and storage have higher emissions associated at the post-processing stages than at the pre-processing stages, despite having the same characteristics? 

Losses at the post-processing stage are associated with higher emissions because they include emissions from production, transport (pre-processing), storage (pre-processing), and processing stages, while losses at the pre-processing stage only include production. 

12. Why are the production, transport, and storage stages not available for meat? 

Production, transport, and storage for meat product would related to livestock and are therefore outside the scope of the tool. Emissions from these stages are implicitly included in the emission factors for meat at the subsequent stages included in the tool. 

13. What Scope of emissions are included within the tool? How does it compare to an LCA? 

The tool follows a project-based accounting method and cannot be clearly defined in terms of Scope. The methodology can be described as upstream value chain or cradle-to-gate footprint that only covers the food loss portion, i.e. a subset of a company's overall VC or LCA boundary.  

14. Is this a recognised carbon footprinting methodology 

No established footprinting methodology is currently available for the purposes of this tool because its boundaries do not fit any of the existing standards, although the methodology aims to be consistent with project and LCA accounting principles where possible. 

15. Can I sell credits based on the results from the tool? 

No, the tool only provides an approximation of GHG emissions avoided by a reduction in food losses. 

16. What are the data sources used within the tool? 

Due to the extensive scope and boundaries of the tool, data had to be gathered from several sources and expert opinions. A detailed review of all data used within the tool is available in the Methodology document. 

17. Can the tool be used to calculate emissions from imports/exports?  

Emissions associated with the import and export of commodities are outside of the scope of this tool. 

18. Why do we have default numbers for commodities that are not produced in certain countries?  

The tool is designed to include a comprehensive dataset of emission factors for all possible combinations of countries and commodities. Missing values are calculated by looking at average values associated with products from the same commodity group and/or from the wider region. Generally, it is not possible to know if a data point for a certain combination of commodity and country is missing because of lack of data (in which case an approximation can still be found within the tool), or simply because that commodity is not cultivated in that country (in which case the combination will never be used). 

19. How can I calculate the amount of methane and nitrous oxide emitted based on tonnes of CO2 equivalent?  

The tool uses data that relies on IPCC AR4 Global Warming Potential (GWP) of 25 for methane and 298 for nitrous oxide. To translate tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent to actual tonnes of methane and nitrous oxide, divide the tCO2e by the respective GWP value. 

20. What does IFC do to help reduce food loss?  

IFC has made agribusiness a priority because of its potential for broad development impact and especially strong role in poverty reduction. We combine investments and advisory services to help the sector address higher demand and escalating food prices in an environmentally sustainable and socially inclusive way. IFC invests across the agribusiness supply chain—from farm to retail—to help boost production, increase liquidity, improve logistics and distribution, and expand access to credit for small farmers. Reducing food losses is one of IFC’s three climate smart agriculture focus areas. 

Learn more about  IFC’s priorities in Agribusiness


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